Table of Contents
Organizations today look to the cloud for their compute and data storage needs. Amazon Web Services (AWS) AWS is by far the current market leader in both revenue and number of customers, and its service ecosystem is the most complete. Amazon’s popular Simple Storage Service (S3) is an object store, meaning that data is stored as objects, along with associated metadata and identifiers. This architecture is inexpensive and scalable while it renders massive amounts of unstructured data more readily accessible and more easily analyzed. S3 is also the name of the application programming interface (API) for accessing the data programmatically.
The S3 API has quickly become the standard protocol for object storage, but there are alternative APIs from major cloud providers. Many third-party solutions are now compatible with more than just S3, offering additional options to users. API compatibility could remain an issue, though. Even if the customer has control of the entire stack, making changes to the application is not always economically or technically feasible.
To simplify data access and the migration process, some service providers offer a compatibility mode that allows customers to use the S3 API, or a subset of it, along with their native API. Amazon Identity and Access Management (IAM) should always be considered when evaluating the compatibility requirements of most applications that use an S3 interface.
Object storage is an excellent choice for many use cases and applications, both in the cloud and on-premises. Most applications that deal with unstructured data can easily take advantage of an object store, which contributes to its appeal. It’s a popular data storage target for containerized or serverless applications as well as for more traditional object store use cases like backup, archiving, media content management, big data lakes, and high-performance computing (HPC).
However, Kubernetes’ rising popularity means that customers are mindful of portability and cloud lock-in, as containers are portable across public clouds and other environments. With so many container-based applications leveraging object storage, lock-in of object storage is as relevant as ever, and customers are evaluating alternatives and more open cloud ecosystems for storage and compute.
Amazon S3 is relatively inexpensive compared to other storage options available from Amazon AWS, but its performance is not always consistent. Moreover, the real cost of the service is not always immediately apparent and could become an issue for some customers. The S3 pricing model is quite complex and depends on factors like resilience, data locality, storage tiers, input/output (I/O) characteristics, and data transfer (egress) costs.
At the end of the day, it’s not easy to estimate the cost of S3 to your organization, and it can be difficult to predict how it will evolve. The egress costs of public cloud services worry CFOs and project managers the most, limiting flexibility for executing a multicloud strategy due to unforeseen costs.
Although AWS has a very compelling solution ecosystem, alternative solution providers with innovative services for vertical markets and use cases offer interesting non-AWS options. Thanks to the success of Amazon S3, many competitors have begun providing similar services while trying to differentiate in the market on price, performance, and functionality.
This GigaOm Radar report highlights key alternatives to Amazon S3 vendors and equips IT decision-makers with the information needed to select the best fit for their business and use case requirements. In the corresponding GigaOm report, “Key Criteria for Evaluating Alternatives to Amazon S3,” we describe in more detail the key features and metrics that are used to evaluate vendors in this market.
How to Read this Report
This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding, consider reviewing the following reports:
Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.
GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.
Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.
2. Market Categories and Deployment Types
To better understand the market and vendor positioning (Table 1), we assess how well alternative S3-compatible object storage services in the public cloud are positioned to serve specific market segments and use cases. Note that we’re only looking at managed, cloud-hosted services in this report, not on-premises product alternatives. Also note that the categorizations in this section are not part of the scoring or positioning of vendors on the Radar chart (Figure 1).
- Small-to-medium business (SMB): In this category, we assess solutions on their ability to meet the needs of organizations ranging from small businesses to medium-sized companies, including departmental use cases in large enterprises. For these use cases, a great experience is key, including ease of use, low cost, ease of billing, onboarding and getting started, and performance. Notably, these solutions should also meet the needs and requirements of individual contributors.
- Large enterprise: Here, offerings are assessed on their ability to support large and business-critical projects. Optimal solutions in this category focus on extensive management functionality, compliance, security and cost predictability, and additional data management features, such as integration into existing data protection and data mobility solutions. Finally, scalability and flexibility are key to successful enterprise adoption.
- Specialized use cases: Specific use cases—like Kubernetes and serverless computing, backup and disaster recovery, archive, (large) media, and edge—have specific requirements. Offerings are assessed on how well they fit these specialized use cases if that’s what they target.
Table 1. Vendor Positioning
|SMB||Large Enterprise||Specialized Use Cases|
|Exceptional: Outstanding focus and execution|
|Capable: Good but with room for improvement|
|Limited: Lacking in execution and use cases|
|Not applicable or absent|
3. Key Criteria Comparison
Building on the findings from the GigaOm report, “Key Criteria for Evaluating Alternatives to Amazon S3,” Tables 2 and 3 summarize how each vendor included in this research performs in the areas we consider differentiating and critical in this sector.
- Key criteria differentiate solutions based on features and capabilities, outlining the primary criteria to be considered when evaluating a deception technology solution.
- Evaluation metrics provide insight into product’s evaluation metrics—the top-line characteristics that define the impact each will have on the organization.
The objective is to give the reader a snapshot of the technical capabilities of available solutions, define the perimeter of the market landscape, and gauge the potential impact on the business.
Key Criteria Comparison
The key criteria for evaluating alternative S3-compatible object storage services in the public cloud continue to shift to encompass more demanding workloads, like container and serverless-based applications and the more traditional unstructured data use cases like archival, backup, media content, and big data lakes.
That diversification means S3-compatible services must support an ever-increasing variety of use cases, including more I/O-heavy workloads, a use case for which Amazon’s S3 can become expensive quickly because of the egress costs attributable to its focus on persistence and durability rather than (write) performance and traffic.
This variety pushes more and more companies to look for alternatives, but not all object stores are equal. In this report, we will analyze the most interesting services, focusing on these key criteria:
- Data integrity features that protect against ransomware, including WORM (write-once-read-many) or Object Lock features, retention policies, and versioning, are key to any object storage service.
- Data resilience features help protect against failures of the underlying physical infrastructure through multiple data centers and (multiple-region) replication capabilities, data protection, and data mobility.
- Data tiering helps optimize cost across a range of usage profiles for different use cases.
- Migration capabilities are key to helping organizations onboard data to the object services through online and offline methods for one-time and ongoing usage.
- Interconnectivity options help customers optimize bandwidth, cost, or compliance through dedicated, physical network connectivity options.
Table 2. Key Criteria Comparison
|Data Integrity||Data Resilience||Data Tiering||Migration Capabilities||Interconnectivity|
|Exceptional: Outstanding focus and execution|
|Capable: Good but with room for improvement|
|Limited: Lacking in execution and use cases|
|Not applicable or absent|
Evaluation Metrics Comparison
We also evaluate each product on the following evaluation metrics:
- Cost predictability: Not only do organizations want cost-effective solutions, they also want expenses to be predictable for budgeting purposes. Organizations look for simple pricing models without hidden (egress) fees and pricing models that are up-front and open about their caveats and lock-ins.
- Flexibility: This is a key aspect of any storage solution because data is hard to move. Use cases and requirements change constantly, and solutions should be flexible enough to cope without expensive and time-consuming migration projects.
- Performance: As workloads using object storage are diversifying into active workloads like serverless computing and containers, performance (both in terms of latency and I/O throughput) becomes important.
- Security: Security features are important aspects of object storage. This includes operational security like role-based access control (RBAC) and two-factor authentication (2FA), and data security measures designed to keep the data itself safe, including in-flight and at-rest encryption and Object Lock.
- Ecosystem: An object store in perfect isolation is not very useful. It needs compute, networking, and other cloud services. Service adjacency and integration into other solutions are key factors for evaluating alternatives to S3, including support for Kubernetes and serverless functionality.
Table 3. Evaluation Metrics Comparison
|Exceptional: Outstanding focus and execution|
|Capable: Good but with room for improvement|
|Limited: Lacking in execution and use cases|
|Not applicable or absent|
In addition to concerns around cost predictability and ecosystem, users must be concerned about data access latency. Applications must access data as quickly as possible, and moving data to an S3 alternative often cannot be considered separately from the application runtime. For AWS-resident applications, S3 remains the best option for data access, but alternatives may be considered for use cases in which the application is installed on remote devices and data is streamed directly from the object store. In some cases, S3 alternatives located close to Amazon facilities can eliminate latency issues.
Alternative S3-compatible object storage services are popular for use cases like data protection and disaster recovery for on-premises object stores, especially now that we see some repatriation of secondary data back to on-premises infrastructure to make the cost very predictable. To maintain a certain level of flexibility, users adopt a hybrid strategy with a cloud object store used as a secondary tier for an on-premises object store, and in this case, an alternative to S3 can be very cost-effective.
By combining the information provided in the tables above, the reader can develop a clear understanding of the technical solutions available in the market.
4. GigaOm Radar
This report synthesizes the analysis of key criteria and their impact on evaluation metrics to inform the GigaOm Radar graphic in Figure 1. The resulting chart is a forward-looking perspective on all the vendors in this report, based on their products’ technical capabilities and feature sets.
The GigaOm Radar plots vendor solutions across a series of concentric rings, with those set closer to the center judged to be of higher overall value. The chart characterizes each vendor on two axes—balancing Maturity versus Innovation, and Feature Play versus Platform Play—while providing an arrow that projects each solution’s evolution over the coming 12 to 18 months.
Figure 1. GigaOm Radar for Alternatives to Amazon S3
As you can see in the Radar chart in Figure 1, the market for object storage has many competitors spread across the chart, mostly due to the variety of players, targeted use cases, and technological maturity.
Notable Outperformers are Wasabi, Microsoft, Google, Cloudflare, and Storj. Wasabi is the pure-play object storage leader to beat. Microsoft and Google, both hyperscalers, have unique and differentiated capabilities compared to AWS. Cloudflare is building an application development platform on top of their already excellent content delivery network (CDN), networking, and security suite of features, giving it a leg up for web and edge applications compared to others in this report.
While Wasabi and Microsoft are frontrunners in this report, there’s pressure from Cloudflare, with its CDN and edge, and from Google, with the maturity of its object storage service and completeness of its portfolio.
This year’s report sees the inclusion of decentralized, globally distributed storage services like Storj, which represent true innovation in the object storage service market, making use of the spare capacity of existing hardware. While early, its strong roadmap makes it a potentially strong Challenger in this space.
Other vendors are more laser-focused on object storage for specific use cases, like Backblaze and 11:11 Systems that are focused on data protection and disaster recovery, which is why they’re positioned in the Mature/Feature Play quadrant.
Lastly, vendors like Zadara, IBM, Oracle, Alibaba, DigitalOcean, and Seagate have solid offerings, but they aren’t as mature, as complete, or as cutting edge as their competitors, so they trail behind in scoring and positioning. For IBM, Oracle, Alibaba, and DigitalOcean, object storage is one of the services in their portfolio, but not the defining service, and they have adopted a less aggressive approach to the market. And while Zadara has a strong focus on (object) storage, it hasn’t shown the level of innovation that its competitors have in the last 12 months.
Inside the GigaOm Radar
The GigaOm Radar weighs each vendor’s execution, roadmap, and ability to innovate to plot solutions along two axes, each set as opposing pairs. On the Y axis, Maturity recognizes solution stability, strength of ecosystem, and a conservative stance, while Innovation highlights technical innovation and a more aggressive approach. On the X axis, Feature Play connotes a narrow focus on niche or cutting-edge functionality, while Platform Play displays a broader platform focus and commitment to a comprehensive feature set.
The closer to center a solution sits, the better its execution and value, with top performers occupying the inner Leaders circle. The centermost circle is almost always empty, reserved for highly mature and consolidated markets that lack space for further innovation.
The GigaOm Radar offers a forward-looking assessment, plotting the current and projected position of each solution over a 12- to 18-month window. Arrows indicate travel based on strategy and pace of innovation, with vendors designated as Forward Movers, Fast Movers, or Outperformers based on their rate of progression.
Note that the Radar excludes vendor market share as a metric. The focus is on forward-looking analysis that emphasizes the value of innovation and differentiation over incumbent market position.
5. Vendor Insights
11:11 Cloud Object Storage is a Ceph-based solution highly focused on backup and disaster recovery. It consists of a single storage tier that is optimized for recovery speed while keeping the cost very predictable and fairly low. Pricing is based on reserved capacity, without any additional fees like egress or API call fees. There is no pay-as-you-go option. The process for adjusting the reserved capacity contract as customers use more than their allotted share is cumbersome.
To buttress its position in the disaster recovery domain, 11:11 offers a long list of security certifications across all of its data centers around the globe, enabling users to pick the location they prefer with the assurance their data won’t leave that country. The new Ceph-based service is available as a single-data-center solution in Dallas (US) and Manchester (UK), with new locations planned. Cloud Object Storage does not yet support cross-regional storage and replication.
Data immutability is supported through Object Lock, and data is encrypted at rest and in flight. There are no physical interconnectivity options. Migration capabilities are lacking, without any hardware appliances for large single migrations. It has options to recover data and applications to adjacent compute services, reducing recovery times in disaster recovery scenarios. Its customer success services help customers optimize their disaster recovery efforts.
Strengths: 11:11 Systems has a highly optimized object storage service for data protection use cases with compute adjacency for quick disaster recovery for enterprise users. It has a predictable cost model, and its focus on customer intimacy and success will help customers make the most of their data protection efforts.
Challenges: The low number of data centers offering its object service and lack of replication features may be off-putting for some. Some object storage features are not yet available through its web user interface (UI). Both characteristics reflect the transitional period 11:11 is in, moving from a Swift-based offering to the new Ceph-based offering, as well as integrating the iland acquisition into 11:11’s portfolio.
Alibaba is the largest cloud computing company in China and Asia-Pacific, operating in many regions and availability zones around the globe, and it rivals the big three providers (Google, AWS, and Azure). Like the big three, it has an extensive range of services. This is a positive for those looking for a wide range of services but a drawback to those looking for simplicity and transparency in pricing and portfolio, which with Alibaba are both fairly complex.
Alibaba has an impressive cloud storage ecosystem based on a single back end that serves all front-end services, including block, file, and object storage. Though Alibaba is still focused primarily in the APAC region, the service is available in multiple EU and US regions.
Alibaba object storage differs from other cloud provider offerings in several ways, including integrated image processing with features that help broaden the range of use cases without requiring additional application logic. Most of these services are included in the basic fees and add a competitive edge, especially considering there are no egress fees for Cloudflare and Alibaba CDN Service. Customers can use a reserved capacity option for different storage services with a single prepaid contract.
Of particular note is the long-term retention service based on clever use of near-line hard disk technology, which provides good access speed at a low cost per GB. Alibaba also focuses on performance, providing a solid base for big data lakes and AI workloads.
While compliant with major regulations (including HIPAA and GDPR) and keeping a focus on security (including end-to-end encryption and user-provided key management), its Chinese roots may be troublesome to some. Alibaba’s core market is larger enterprises looking to migrate to the cloud.
Strengths: Alibaba has a highly integrated object storage proposition built for specific use cases. Its major presence in China and the APAC region make it a great choice for local customers.
Challenges: Alibaba has a strong presence in the APAC area but only a few zones in the EU and North America. The complexity of its portfolio and pricing model are comparable to the big three providers, making it a less suitable choice for those wanting simplicity.
Backblaze is well known for its consumer and business backup services, and in recent years has emerged as a serious contender with its affordable, feature-rich, S3 compliant B2 Cloud Storage service.
The service is focused primarily on unregulated industries, SMBs, and large enterprises that need cloud storage at a low and predictable price, but its compelling pricing also attracts managed service providers (MSPs) and others looking for low-cost, high-capacity storage solutions. The most common use cases include backup, archiving, file storage back end, big data lakes, and any other workload that doesn’t require frequent data access.
Backblaze B2 is available in five data centers across three regions in the US and EU and supports replication. Backblaze takes security seriously, with data centers that are SSAE-18/SOC 2 compliant and ISO27001 certified, along with additional SOC2 Type 1 and Type 2 certifications.
Additionally, B2 Cloud Storage has extensive support for data encryption (both at rest and in flight with an option to bring your own), identity management, 2FA, single sign-on (SSO) mechanisms, and more. Additionally, B2 supports Object Lock and legal hold for ransomware purposes, with additional integrations for products like Veeam and Arq, which directly support B2’s Object Lock from within their respective interfaces.
Additionally, Backblaze offers a free migration program for large users who plan to migrate data from other cloud providers, on-premises, and tape to B2 Cloud Storage to reduce onboarding costs and have the option to send in data via a Fireball disk enclosure.
Its pricing model is not the simplest (with pricing per TB/month, per downloaded GB, and three classes of transactions), but it’s open and honest about the costs and has realistic calculators to determine pricing up-front. It also offers a reserved capacity pricing model starting at 20 TB. It offers only a single “always hot at cold pricing” tier.
Finally, while Backblaze does not have any adjacent compute services, it has partners that provide infrastructure for instant disaster recovery and other compute requirements, often with free bandwidth between B2 Cloud Storage and its compute and CDN partners.
Strengths: With good ease of use and low, predictable costs (identical across regions), this S3-compatible cloud storage service has a growing solution ecosystem, many good partner integrations, and interesting migration options.
Challenges: The service is currently available in three regions. While it has simple reserved capacity options, its pay-as-you-go pricing model is somewhat complex and may be a limiting factor for some buyers.
Cloudflare is a CDN offering networking and security solutions. R2, its object storage service, is one of the services in its developer-focused portfolio. Due to Cloudflare’s strong position as a CDN, R2 inherits some of its strengths, such as a wide service availability, low networking-related costs, and a strong serverless compute offering. This makes R2 applicable for web hosting use cases like static assets and media files. R2 has a rich set of possibilities for event triggers and serverless functionality, including workflows based on object creating or modification.
R2 storage is available from three regions (North America, EMEA, and APAC) and is automatically replicated within a region for durability. Cross-region replication is not supported. Currently, only a single tier is offered.
All data is encrypted, both in flight and at rest. Buckets are, by default, not accessible publicly; additional granular security policies are available via Cloudflare Access, a suite of networking security features. Notably, Object Lock and versioning are currently not available without custom-building functionality using its Workers feature. Anomaly detection and automatic responses are available via other products in Cloudflare’s portfolio.
Its CDN roots facilitate some interesting migration capabilities, including migrating objects incrementally as they are requested. One-off migrations are also supported.
Pricing options include a monthly flexible pay-as-you-go consumption model with capacity pricing and two classes of transactions. There are no egress fees for R2 storage.
Strengths: R2 is ideally positioned to serve static web assets and media files through Cloudflare’s global edge network. Paired with its Workers serverless feature, R2 creates powerful building blocks for web application and data processing solutions.
Challenges: R2 missed the mark on some data integrity features including Object Lock and replication, as well as offering below-average migration capabilities for large data sets. Its roadmap however shows strong directional potential in solving these challenges. While priced low, its single tier service may be limiting to some.
Based on the Ceph open source storage system, DigitalOcean Spaces targets startups and SMBs. This service is easy to adopt and manage: it’s cost-conscious with a simple and predictable pricing model, an easy-to-use and intuitive UI, integrated CDN features, and S3 compatibility. Its primary use case is digital asset distribution for applications hosted in the DigitalOcean compute cloud, but it’s also useful for other scenarios, such as video streaming and log archives, that benefit from object storage. It offers only a single tier, but has some lifecycle expiration settings to automatically delete data.
Spaces is available in six locations around the globe: New York, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Sydney, and Singapore. Buckets cannot be natively replicated across different regions or availability zones. Its use in highly regulated environments is limited by a lack of compliance with common regulations. Data is encrypted in flight and at rest.
The UI is well-integrated in the management console and has all the necessary tools for basic administrative operations and user management. Current migration capabilities are sub-par, but DigitalOcean’s future investments in storage look promising.
Licensing for Spaces is a pay-as-you-go model starting at 250 GB per month, and each additional GB costs $0.02. Pricing is the same across all data centers and is priced on operations or requests. Each subscription includes a terabyte of outbound data transfer for free, with a $0.01 per GB overage fee. Traffic between local Droplets (DigitalOcean’s virtual machines or VMs) and buckets is also free. Notably, DigitalOcean lacks support for Object Lock, but it has some anomaly detection and does have versioning support.
Strengths: Digital Ocean Spaces is relatively inexpensive (particularly for bandwidth billing) and developer friendly. It’s well-integrated in an ecosystem growing in the number and variety of services users can take advantage of, including VMs, (managed) Kubernetes, and serverless models.
Challenges: Spaces presents several limitations restricting its adoption for larger, dynamic, or complex applications, especially for the price per GB. Notable are its absent support for Object Lock and lack of migration capabilities and replication between buckets.
Google is investing heavily in its cloud platform while addressing enterprise needs. Google Cloud Storage is now available in 29 regions around the globe, providing several choices in terms of availability, service-level agreement (SLA), latency, and performance. Notable are its auto-tiering capabilities with object lifecycle management to optimize cost. Additionally, its replication and data resilience options are outstanding, with support for dual-region buckets that automatically replicate objects in a globally-accessible bucket across multiple regions.
Naturally, Google shines in the adjacent services department, with Google Cloud being one of the leading hyperscalers and offering hundreds of additional services for compute, serverless models, machine learning (ML), networking, security, and application delivery while offering a simpler, more competitive price model than S3.
Google provides a Storage Transfer Service utility to move data stored in S3-compatible buckets to cloud storage, as well as an offline transfer appliance.
Security is a priority for Google, which is certified or compliant with all major global and local regulations and includes WORM and Object Lock features. It also supports customer-managed and provided encryption keys, extensive audit logs, and object- and bucket-level permissions.
Strengths: Google is a true hyperscaler with hundreds of additional services complementing its object storage capabilities, making it suitable for nearly every use case. Its simple pricing model is attractive to all kinds of users.
Challenges: Even though Google Cloud Storage checks all the boxes, the complexity of its ecosystem may be daunting to those with simpler use cases.
IBM Cloud Object Storage is a solid solution for IBM Cloud customers, but it may be compelling for other users as well. It offers S3 compatibility and several storage tiers, including a smart tier option for automatic data placement driven by user-defined policies. Common use cases include backup and archiving and, in general, all cold data workloads, but the performance characteristics of this solution mean it can address container and serverless workloads, big data analytics, and internet of things (IoT) workloads as well.
IBM Cloud offers various pricing options, including subscriptions with discounts linked to spending commitment, helping customers to get predictable cloud storage costs. The pricing model is flexible but not the simplest. The service is available in several regions worldwide, with multiple data replication schemes to improve availability and resilience.
IBM Cloud Object Storage SQL Query, based on Apache Spark, differentiates this service from others. Users can query objects stored in predefined formats interactively without needing additional tools, which simplifies the applications stack while producing quicker results.
Good security is in place, with many certifications for important regulations in the finance and healthcare fields and many features to improve overall access control, data encryption, and object lifecycle. WORM functionality is available for applications that need data immutability, compliance, and protection against ransomware.
While a data migration option to ingest data exists, there is no physical appliance for offline transfer.
Strengths: IBM is investing heavily in its cloud ecosystem, including object storage. The solution has a balanced price/performance combination, thanks to its smart tiering policy.
Challenges: IBM still lags compared to major cloud providers and is not always perceived as a credible alternative.
Microsoft is investing heavily in its object storage platform, Azure Blob, with continuous improvements and new features released at a steady pace. Azure Blob is at the base of several other Azure storage and data services and is well-integrated with the rest of the ecosystem, including an impressive and ever-growing partner network. Compared to other major cloud providers, Azure Blob stands out for providing a broader range of capabilities to address use cases that take on high-performance workloads using the flash memory-based storage tier. Object lifecycle management, based on user-defined policies, can help customers optimize data placement and costs, as well as tier data automatically to colder tiers.
Security concerns are addressed with numerous certifications and features designed to improve day-to-day operations, such as geo-fencing, anonymous access prevention, soft delete, point-in-time restores, and more. The change feed feature is noteworthy—once it’s enabled, a log of all transactions on a specific storage account is saved in read-only mode and becomes accessible for auditing or other application purposes. Blob indexing and query functionality also help to improve object storage usability while simplifying application development.
Azure Blob includes HDFS and NFS 3.0 compatibility with object-file parity, enabling users to migrate data quickly and seamlessly from legacy environments to the cloud. Microsoft launched support for SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) in early 2023 to securely connect to Blob Storage, allowing users to use SFTP for file access, file transfer, and file management. The Azure Data Box feature helps customers transfer large on-premises datasets using a physical appliance.
A notable feature is Microsoft Defender for Storage, which offers threat and anomaly detection, including potential causes, investigation steps, and remediation steps to take to detect and remediate (security) threats as they happen.
The standard pricing model is aligned with other major providers, but Microsoft also offers a reserved capacity option.
Strengths: Microsoft Azure Blob is one of the best solutions on the market and central to a huge ecosystem. Many third-party vendors are adopting Blob APIs as an alternative to S3.
Challenges: The service is not compatible with S3, and potential customers should check on compatibility with Blob APIs. Standard pricing is still complicated compared to other solutions, but Microsoft is actively working to provide more predictable options to its customers.
Oracle Cloud Infrastructure
Oracle has built an advanced infrastructure designed for performance and reliability with an increasingly global presence. Its object store has good overall performance with SLAs and Amazon S3, and Amazon IAM and SAML compatibility. The object store offers multiple storage tiers for long-term retention or frequently accessed data with policy-based auto-tiering support. It also has mature replication features, as well as interconnectivity options.
Its pricing model is fairly simple given the different tiers, with identical pricing across regions. Many of the data transfer services it offers are free.
Oracle’s unique selling point as a hyperscaler is its strong support for data sovereignty, as Object Storage data stays in the original region by default. It has mature online and offline migration capabilities, including storage gateways and physical appliances.
Information lifecycle management (ILM) functionality is another interesting aspect of this product and allows users to replicate data to different regions and set up policies to manage the object’s lifecycle. In terms of security and data availability, Oracle focuses on end-to-end encryption with support for its key management system and user-provided keys while giving the user good control of resources and their visibility.
Oracle Cloud Object Storage is an interesting platform when leveraged alongside very high-performance Oracle compute instances for big data analytics and similar workloads. A data transfer service based on an appliance that provides a network file system (NFS) interface is also available to speed up data migrations with limited bandwidth, and it provides cross-region replication and one-time copy utilities. The partner ecosystem is expanding, for example via its partnership with Microsoft to interconnect its cloud services.
Strengths: Oracle Object Storage is a compelling service for Oracle users and provides very predictable pricing across the globe.
Challenges: The partner ecosystem is limited, and when compared to direct competitors, the service is not differentiated enough to stand out in the crowd.
Lyve Cloud is an object storage service by Seagate Technology. It is available in seven regions across the US, EMEA, and APAC, with additional regions planned. Notably, cross-region replication is not generally available, and not all regions are multiple-availability zones. Improvements to the availability of replication, the number of regions, and the number of regions with multiple availability zones are on the roadmap.
Security-wise, data is encrypted in flight and at rest. Notably, access control supports Amazon’s IAM standard, making it easier for teams to create and manage policies, in addition to multifactor authentication (MFA). It also has multitenancy account features for resellers, MSPs, and enterprise customers. Object Lock and versioning functionality are present, as well as direct physical networking connectivity into its data centers. Lyve Cloud is ISO27001, SOC 2 Type 2, and HIPAA certified.
Seagate offers only a single tier; pricing is capacity-based without any additional fees at roughly $0.09 per GB/month, selling directly and indirectly through distributors and MSPs. Seagate also has a startups program, offering 1 PB of free capacity for 12 months for qualifying startups. Pricing includes migration capabilities and support, clearly indicating a focus on customer intimacy and success.
In addition to the Lyve Cloud object storage service, Seagate offers adjacent services for compute and ML. Compute services are offered through a partnership with Zadara and are deployed as a dedicated zCompute tenant exclusively for Lyve Cloud customers, and a similar approach is taken with ML functionality, powered by Iguazio. The Data Mover product is a virtual appliance used to migrate data to and from the Lyve Cloud, and is made available free of charge. Lyve Mobile is a physical appliance for offline data migration. Finally, the Lyve Cloud Tape Migration and Storage service is a physical data center customers can ship their tapes to for migration from tape to object storage.
Strengths: Lyve Cloud is a compelling option for those looking for a simple pricing model and white-glove service. Its migration and tape archival capabilities are outstanding and its security features notable.
Challenges: Lyve Cloud is missing the mark on data resilience without generally-available cross-availability zone replication, although it’s being addressed on their roadmap. At $0.09 per GB per month, the lack of a lower-cost tier may be cumbersome for price-sensitive customers.
Storj is a decentralized, globally distributed storage service using spare capacity from enthusiasts, prosumers, and service providers across 20,000 edge locations in over 100 countries. It has metadata servers in three geographies (US, EU, and APAC) that handle access management, metadata management, storage node reputation, data repair, billing, and payment. Customers who require the extra security of end-to-end encryption can opt to self-host and self-manage a gateway. There is only one tier of storage.
The independently operated Storage Node stores data for others and gets paid for storage and bandwidth in STORJ tokens, which are based on the Ethereum blockchain and can be stored in any wallet that supports ERC-20 tokens. All data stored on storage nodes is client-side encrypted and erasure-coded. Uplink Clients are the gateways to the network, handling end-to-end encryption and erasure coding (splitting objects into a minimum of 80 pieces and distributed across storage nodes). Due to the erasure coding and data encryption, node owners cannot reconstruct data on their servers. By using customer-provided encryption keys, nobody else can reconstruct objects.
This approach has the advantage of inherent multiregion resilience, taking care of data resilience by default. Storj is working on adding geographic controls to initial data placement. This multiregion resilience and high parallelism of uploads and downloads distributed globally blurs the lines between content collection, storage, and delivery, creating a unique combination of edge-based storage and CDN suitable for many use cases. These include quick recovery abilities in disaster recovery scenarios and low latency for media streaming. However, Storj offers no adjacent services for compute, networking, or development, and compliance certifications are absent, although it has started the SOC2 compliance process and will offer a new tier of enterprise storage where all components and storage are located in SOC2 certified facilities. Support for Object Lock and versioning is currently on the roadmap and slated for 2023.
Migration capabilities are on par with the market; they support disk based migration through a partnership with iXsystems, and there is a storage gateway. Lastly, Storj has integrated into Flexify.io for simple managed transfers.
Pricing is available in a pay-as-you-go model ($0.004 per GB/month plus $0.007 per GB of bandwidth egress to the public internet). There are also reserved capacity bundles available. In addition, Storj offers enterprise services for those requiring private network services or advanced configurations for multicloud and hybrid cloud deployments. A physical appliance is being considered for a data-center-only tier of storage nodes for private network implementations.
Strengths: Storj’s decentralized approach to object storage creates some unique advantages over the competition, including a CDN-like architecture, low latency, and high performance. Its erasure coding and global distribution remove the need for replication.
Challenges: The distributed, decentralized approach may be off-putting to some compliance-oriented enterprises, even though SOC2 compliance is underway. Storj offers no adjacent services for compute, networking, or development. There is no support for Object Lock or versioning, but both are on the roadmap for 2023.
Wasabi offers simple and reliable cloud object storage. It gives organizations of all sizes a very good combination of cost, performance, and S3 compatibility for hot data, though it has no multitiering capabilities. It claims it’s faster and cheaper than other hot tiers, negating the need for cheaper and slower tiers.
It boasts more than 40,000 customers worldwide, and the service is available in 13 regions. There are plans to expand the service into additional locations including two FedRAMP data centers.
Wasabi customers can choose from two pricing models: a pay-as-you-go capacity-based subscription without additional charges for I/O operations, or reserved capacity at a fixed price, with discounts based on term and capacity. However, pricing varies across regions.
In addition to its object storage service, it has additional offerings for more advanced multitenant use cases (Account Control Manager) and more niche use cases (Cloud NAS and Surveillance Cloud).
A separate product, Cloud Sync Manager, enables bucket replication within and between regions, migrations from other clouds, and on-premises infrastructure. The Ball transfer appliance helps transfer large data sets from on-premises locations to Wasabi. Finally, there are direct connectivity options from on-premises and cloud to Wasabi for dedicated bandwidth and compliance reasons.
Wasabi is also attracting value-added resellers (VARs) and MSPs who can take advantage of the globally consistent and friendly pricing to provide end-to-end solutions at reasonable prices compared to major cloud providers.
Wasabi’s technology partner network is growing steadily, with an increasing number of hardware and software vendors certifying their solutions to work with Wasabi. And Wasabi partners with other cloud service providers (CSPs), including CDNs and compute-focused CSPs, to avoid egress fees for data moved across different networks. Lastly, Wasabi also partners with infrastructure cloud providers like Vultr and Hivelocity to offer storage-adjacent compute services like VMs and bare metal servers without egress fees between the two.
Security and compliance are other areas in which Wasabi invested heavily, resulting in a long list of certifications, including HIPAA, HITECH, FINRA, MiFID, CJIS, and FERPA for working with government and financial institutions. It also has Object and Bucket Lock functionality.
Strengths: Wasabi has simple, convenient, and straightforward pricing without hidden fees for a fast, S3-compatible storage service. It’s channel friendly, with a growing partner network and many locations available to accommodate data sovereignty, local preferences, low latency, and good performance.
Challenges: While Wasabi was actively adding partners to support compute services in 2022, it still lacks a broad portfolio of integrations for serverless and container services.
Zadara is not a CSP, but it offers a managed storage as a service (STaaS) solution that combines the benefits of a public cloud with those of private infrastructures. The solution focuses on partners such as regional cloud providers and MSPs; enterprise customers can also choose to deploy Zadara’s solution on-premises.
Zadara Edge Cloud Platform works on hardware dedicated to each customer, both in the cloud and on-premises, providing strong multitenancy, excellent security, and highly predictable performance. Zadara can be configured for block, file, and/or object storage, which can scale with different media types and options in the front end.
Zadara is available in more than 56 regions in 25 countries. It’s accessible from more than 300 different cloud providers, thanks to the booming partner network the company is building. In fact, most sales are now driven by its channel partners focusing on midsize companies, ISPs, and MSPs that cover several different verticals. The solution has already proven its scalability by deploying dozens of petabytes for a single object storage infrastructure. Furthermore, because the product is present in multiple cloud regions, migrating data from cloud to cloud is quick and easy.
Tiering consists of available deployment of multiple virtual private storage arrays (VPSAs) to different hardware classes, and auto-tiering is supported on flash deployments, with the ability to tier on S3-compatible object storage. Replication is available between VPSAs.
The pricing model is very simple, and the cost is highly predictable. It’s based on actual resource allocation without additional transactions or egress fees. The solution is also highly configurable in terms of data protection, with two-way replication and erasure coding. Security is ensured with data encryption both at rest and in transit, using encryption keys handled directly by the customers. Object immutability is also supported, adding an additional level of protection against ransomware attacks. Zadara implements detailed metrics and visualization capabilities.
Zadara offers the Federated Edge (FE) program, a solution supported by a large global federation of MSPs. Participating FE MSPs can provision on-demand compute and storage systems based on Zadara Edge Cloud Services anywhere in the world—even in locations that hyperscale clouds or private edge solutions can’t serve. Zadara developed an interesting serverless solution with containers that can run directly into its virtual controllers.
Strengths: Zadara has a highly flexible, on-premises and multicloud STaaS solution independent from the cloud provider. It offers strong multitenancy, enterprise-grade features, and security, with highly predictable costs.
Challenges: It’s available only through resellers and MSP partners, limiting its use cases to specific niches or larger enterprises. Erasure coding support is available only with large profile plans, limiting data protection options for smaller customers. Its current object storage architecture is “eventually consistent,” with improvements planned for 2023 to move toward a strongly consistent storage architecture.
6. Analyst’s Take
Object storage is the go-to solution for most unstructured data needs. While AWS may lead the industry, this report clearly shows there is substantial differentiation in this market across the vendors evaluated, and there is no lack of innovation. Most vendors offer compelling advantages such as lower cost, simpler pricing models, or better performance, or they have drastically different architectures.
The relatively low cost of storing data in the cloud is very appealing, but the amount of unstructured data residing in object storage systems is growing tremendously. Moreover, egress costs can be high and are hard to predict with some providers. While we don’t see repatriation happening at a large scale, we do see smaller players filling the gap between hyperscalers and on-premises infrastructure, and a few of those smaller players are working on a broader product portfolio with deeper features, so it pays to watch for the Outperformers in this Radar report (Figure 1), as well as some of the vendors taking drastically different approaches to market.
Object storage interfaces are becoming much more common, and because object storage is also very accessible from edge and IoT devices, its use will only grow. These interfaces and protocols are more common now for communicating between applications and devices on one side and public or private object stores on the other. Despite the early entrance of Amazon S3, alternatives are proliferating, and some are exciting in terms of their features and pricing models, even if they do not have S3 compatibility. Some niche providers offer compelling solutions tailored for specific use cases like backup and recovery, or are geared toward individual developers.
There are several factors to consider before committing to a public object store, including migration strategy, data-compute vicinity, overall latency, performance of the object store, egress and transaction costs, service availability across regions, and data availability and durability. To meet business and application needs, all of these parameters must be examined individually and in relation to the amount of data you need to store. Keep in mind that some services that do not seem ideal for general purpose applications can be highly competitive in niche markets or for specific use cases, so a deep comparison of requirements and features will help you make the right decision. In this report, we’ve taken a look at the capabilities (key criteria) and evaluation metrics (non-functional purchase requirements) that help break down the offerings available in the market.
The Key Criteria and Radar reports for evaluating hyperscale compute alternatives dive deeper into vendors that offer a complete portfolio of cloud services in addition to object storage, and are worthwhile companions to this report.
7. About Joep Piscaer
Joep is a technologist with team building and tech marketing skills. His background as a CTO, cloud architect, infrastructure engineer and DevOps culture coach. He has built many engineering and architect teams and culture.
Founder of TLA Tech, a tech marketing firm focusing on cloud-native. Co-hosts TheCUBE sometimes. Blogs at VirtualLifestyle.nl
8. About GigaOm
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